Maine’s highest court this summer will hear oral arguments in the case of an Oxford woman who is appealing her 2014 manslaughter conviction in the 2012 deaths of two West Paris teenagers. 

A clerk with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court confirmed last week that justices have scheduled a June 17 hearing in the case of Kristina Lowe. The hearing will be held at 9:50 a.m. at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. An immediate ruling is not expected. 

Last May, Lowe, then 21, was found guilty by an Oxford County jury on two counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident. Trial evidence showed she had consumed marijuana and alcohol at an underage party just prior to getting behind the wheel of a car that went off the road into a thicket of trees in January 2012, killing Rebecca Mason, 16, and Logan Dam, 19.  

In October, she was sentenced to eight years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. She has remained free pending appeal.

At least one prosecutor is expected to argue that the lower court did its job in upholding previous challenges to the conviction. 

The high court does not schedule oral hearings for all cases lodged before it. Mary Ann Lynch, a spokesperson for the state’s justice system, said in an email that all cases are reviewed by two justices to determine whether the case presents a novel or complex legal question that present important questions to the development of the law. 

Since the cost of litigation is another factor, unless one of the parties has requested an oral hearing,the case will be decided on the briefs, Lynch said. 

“If the parties have requested oral argument than the case is usually scheduled for oral argument,” she said. 

The case drew national attention and was dubbed by some as one of Maine’s first texting-and-driving cases, though that label later faded despite the protests of the victims’ families. 

The filings mirror arguments lodged in an earlier, failed attempt to have the case dismissed by a lower court. In it, defense lawyer James Howaniec contends that Lowe’s actions were civil offenses that did not rise to the level of criminal recklessness as Lowe was only slightly speeding and had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent, below the state’s 0.08 percent legal limit to drive, as well as marijuana in her system.

Although each separately was not enough to convict her, Howaniec said, prosecutors were erroneously allowed to imply that the combination of alcohol and marijuana caused her to be impaired, prompting the jury to find her “guilty of something.” 

Additionally, he said there was no evidence, aside from dubious testimony of Earl Lowe, Kristina Lowe’s father, that she was impaired or had read an incoming text message, received just moment before the car entered the trees. 

The bar set for the state to prove — that Lowe acted recklessly, beyond what a normal person would do — was met by her “culpable state of mind” in her attempts to convince party-goers not to call 911 and concerns expressed to state police that she could go to jail, Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor wrote.

He noted past cases of defendants speeding and becoming involved in fatal accidents that resulted in manslaughter convictions even though speeding alone is a civil, not criminal, penalty.

When coupled with witness testimony Lowe said she was “too drunk to drive” and appeared visibly intoxicated, O’Connor wrote that the jury was correct to believe Lowe had a “culpable” state of mind when she later pleaded with party-goers not to call police for help. 

[email protected] 

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: